Society expects us to have unconditional love for our parents coupled with putting out utmost trust in them no matter what. Sometimes however upholding this standard does more damage than good.
Last night I was at a local wrestling event. A few friends, my dad, mom, and stepdad accompanied me. It was outdoors, full of ridiculousness, and reeked of manliness. Of course, there were your usual vendors with alcohol, cigars, and food. My buddies grabbed a few beers and BBQ food before procuring our spot for the evening. My dad meandered over to our spot with a Corona in his hand, and instantly my antenna went up.
For the last forty years, my dad struggled with alcoholism. You would think after after multiple arrests, three DUIs, multiple stays in rehab, and a diagnosis of cirrhosis of the liver that alcohol would be the last thing of his mind. On the other hand, this shows the power of addiction and how it controls one’s psyche. For my dad in particular, he always used alcohol as an escape. His drinking always picked up when he was stressed out. It was his way of running away from his problems.
Seeing that Corona brought up all of those old feelings and memories. If he stuck to one beer, I usually did not say anything to him. That Corona was in his hand for quite some time. The longer it stayed in his grasp, the more my anxiety decreased. He walked away periodically though claiming that he was going to smoke a cigarette. During the second match, my dad grabbed onto a pole that separated the VIP section from general admission. His mannerisms seemed off. Two or three of my friends asked me if he was okay. He was getting awfully touchy too.
I moved next to him to keep an eye on him. In the periphery, I saw sudden movement. My dad fell backwards into two women, and I caught him before he could hit the ground. My mom rushed over and said she was going to walk him out. As they walked out of the front gate, my stepdad ran back to me and asked me to come out for a second. He told me that the guards flagged him.
My mind at that moment…
My mom and stepdad agreed to take him home, which was luckily a half mile away. I shook my head and walked back into the event. My friends looked at me and did not know what to say. I shrugged my shoulders and tried to turn my attention back to the wrestling. I tried hard to put on a facade, but it felt too forced. I wear my feelings on my sleeve, and I felt them coming out.
My mom and stepdad returned about five minutes later. My mom pulled me to the side and told me what she saw. As she walked him out, she saw a bottle of vodka on him. The guard also saw it, which resulted in being kicked out of the event. I attempted blocking out what happened and enjoying the rest of my night.
Around two in the morning, I took my one friend to my dad’s apartment since he was crashing there for the night. My dad’s girlfriend woke up my dad from his deep drunken slumber. He came out groggy. I asked him how he was feeling and what happened. “I fell three times. My equilibrium was off.” “Bullshit, dad.” I told him what my mom told me. He denied it up and down.
I looked at him and mumbled, “We will talk tomorrow. You need to go back to rehab.” I turned the other way and walked out. The moment I got in my car my heart grew heavy. My chest felt tight. It was as if the emotional hurt manifested into a physical pain. Now, my mind had time to ruminate. There was nobody there to distract me from the re-traumatizing. My thoughts were off to the races.
Then, I experienced what felt like a wartime flashback. In my mind, I felt like I was fifteen again. I envisioned myself back in my childhood bedroom sitting at my desk with my head down. There were many nights where I sat there and just cried, wondering why my dad treated me like this. The feelings of embarrassment, shame, and pain radiating through my soul. This nightmare then relived all the times my dad embarrassed me in front of my friends. It reminded me why I never had people over my house growing up in fear that they would be exposed to him in an altered state.
Also, irrational beliefs I that I came to terms with through years of therapy became fresh once more. I cannot trust anyone. I cannot be happy. I do not deserve to be happy. I cannot trust the people closest to me, especially those who are expected to be there for me. I fought back in my exhausted state. I finally got home after a long, emotionally tumultuous drive. I took two Advil PM and passed the fuck out.
Today, I am fighting back. That is why I decided to write about it. This post gives me an opportunity to process those “fresh” thoughts and feelings in real time. I am also giving myself time to decompress and not being around a lot of people.
A few things I am taking away from the experience from last night:
-It was definitely a result of complex PTSD, or being exposed to traumatic experiences repeatedly. I was in denial for the longest time that I suffered PTSD-like symptoms, but this is the second episode in three months.
-I need a recovery plan following these types of events because they will inevitably occur. This is where self-care plays a pivotal role in bringing back up to speed.
-My parents are the primary trigger for these episodes. Unfortunately, they were the ones responsible for a great deal of my childhood trauma. This puts me in a tight spot.I cannot totally cut them out of my life. As toxic as they are, I still love them and do have a lot of good times with them. I need to put boundaries in place though and keep them at a distance with certain areas.
From time to time, the present will want to remind me of my past. It will be what I do with the present though that will dictate the future.
-The Caring Counselor